Sunday, August 10, 2008

Surviving Australia

Okay, I have to be honest here. It wasn't just the long plane ride that deterred me from going to Australia. It was all the danger.

At one point, during my not-yet-totally-obsessed-with-Australia stage, I picked up a children's book at the bargain section of a bookstore. It was about dangerous animals--maybe specifically Australian dangerous animals. I don't remember. But the idea I got from the book is that Australia is likely to kill you.

At that point, I was really into safety and.....well, not dying.

By the time, we made the decision to go to Australia, I had less fears of dying and more courage.

I did buy a book called Surviving Australia: A Practical Guide To Staying Alive And I swear it wasn't because I was still paranoid. I was just eager to grab ANY book related to Australia.

The book actually made me relax. I realized the places we were headed to did not have much danger. We'd probably be safe in Sydney and likely nothing horrible would happen to us in Port Stephens.

We weren't going to Northern Queensland where crocodiles might have us for lunch. We weren't taking any long outback rides where we might end up with no water and a stalled car. We weren't swimming any place where we might meet up with the dreaded Irukandji jellyfish.

I did later find out that the most dangerous spider in the world is called the SYDNEY Funnel Web spider. But I put my fears to rest when I read that they have an antidote for its venom.

Once we got to Australia, Jack and I became actual fans of the whole dangerous animal thing. We loved going through Sydney Wildlife World and Sydney Aquarium, pointing out all the deadly fauna I bought Jack a Stephen Parrish book called Australia's Deadly and Dangerous Animals.

We learned that although these animals are not the type you want to take to bed and cuddle, they haven't really caused that many deaths.

It ends up I hadn't risked my child's life by taking him to Australia.

Or had I?

One foggy day we took a tour up to the Blue Mountains. I didn't want to do it. It's all Tim's fault. I'm not a mountain girl. I'm a beach girl. But since he had agreed to go to Australia with me, I figured the least I could do was go on this tour.

I actually ended up enjoying it. Tim and our friend Greg fell asleep for a big chunk of the bus ride. Maybe Jack did too? I stayed awake-- glued to every word the tour guide said.

It was a lovely tour. We visited Featherdale Wildlife park and got a bunch of koala cling-on toys. We saw the Three Sisters. We went to a famous candy shop. We visited the eerie vacant location of the 2000 Olympics. (It's not in the Blue Mountains. But the tour stopped there on the way back).

But at some point, we came close to death. No there wasn't a rogue crocodile in the candy store. No. Someone did not stick a live jellyfish in my bowl of soup.

And Laura....No, I'm not referring to that terrifying train ride.

While riding the bus, the fog became worse.

Let me just add here that I am scared of driving on mountains. I remember family vacations with my dad driving and me very sure that we were going to fly off the mountain and die.

But I TRUST professional bus drivers. I figure they know what they're doing. I put my faith in them.

While I was sitting there comfortable in my faith and love of life, the bus driver said something like "Can any of you see anything? Because I can't see a thing!"

We were on a mountain!

Then with a chuckle he told us that recently he had taken the wrong road and ended up in someone's private roadway or something. Oops! Maybe we'll now take the wrong road and end up tumbling to our deaths.

How fun! Where's Rudolph when you need him?

I didn't freak out. I didn't start crying or screaming. I didn't beg for them to let me off the bus. I sat there totally relaxed. I figured maybe it was my fate to not just visit Australia. Maybe I was supposed to die in Australia.

I just think though if that's supposed to happen, can't I have something more exciting? Stung to death by bull ants? Maybe a Great White Shark kind of thing? Yeah. I like the shark thing. Potentially very good for the environment since there's likely not to be much of a body to bury or cremate.

I really don't mind dying in Australia.

I just prefer it not be by an incompetent bus driver. Although I shouldn't say that. The bus driver was really sweet, funny, and I loved all his stories. And hey....we DID survive. So, I should give him credit for that as well.

Do I look scared?